Which he didn’t.
The “Rational Irrationality” blog the other day joined the likes of the Financial Times, Fox News, the Huffington Post, Minnesota Public Radio, the Providence Journal, media critic Eric Alterman, the Hindu newspaper in India, among others, in invoking the line as if it had been advice earnestly offered by “Deep Throat.”
“Rational Irrationality” referred to the line as “immortal advice,” stating:
“There are two ways to figure out what is really happening in Washington politics. One is to interview Administration officials, congressmen, Capitol Hill staffers, think-tank wonks, and so on, and write down what they say. The other journalistic technique is to heed Deep Throat’s immortal advice to Bob Woodward and follow the money trail. When it comes to budgets and the deficit, the Deep Throat methodology is usually the more informative.”
That line appears nowhere in All the President’s Men, the book Woodward wrote with Post colleague Carl Bernstein about their Watergate reporting — reporting that did not, as I discuss in my latest work, Getting It Wrong, bring down Nixon’s corrupt presidency.
The line was memorably uttered not by the real-life “Deep Throat” — who in 2005 was self-revealed to have been W. Mark Felt, formerly a top official at the FBI — but by Hal Holbrook, the actor who played “Deep Throat” in the movie.
Holbrook turned in an outstanding performance as a conflicted, tormented “Deep Throat.”
It wouldn’t have led him to Nixon.
What forced Nixon from office in 1974 was not the misuse of campaign funds but the president’s active role in attempting to obstruct justice by covering up the signal crime of the Watergate scandal, the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in June 1972.
Rolling up the scandal of Watergate’s complexity and dimension was scarcely as straightforward as pursuing misused campaign contributions.
As I write in Getting It Wrong, unraveling Watergate required “the collective if not always the coordinated forces of special prosecutors, federal judges, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the Justice Department and the FBI.
“Even then,” I argue, “Nixon likely would have served out his term if not for the audiotape recordings he secretly made of most conversations in the Oval Office of the White House.
“Only when compelled by the Supreme Court did Nixon surrender those recordings, which captured him plotting the cover-up” that cost him the presidency.
Recent and related:
- Historian dismisses as ‘self-promotion’ the heroic-journalist interpretation of Watergate
- ‘Deep Throat’ didn’t say ‘follow the money’; nor was he vital in Watergate
- India high court invokes phony Watergate line
- Jon Krakauer rolls back claim about WaPo ‘source’ in Jessica Lynch case
- The Fin Times and the ‘mantra’ of Watergate
- Joe McGinniss, ‘Deep Throat,’ and anonymous sources
- A ‘follow the money’ hat trick
- Fact-checking Watergate advice that ‘worked’
- ‘A debunker’s work is never done’
- Every good historian a mythbuster
- Getting It Wrong goes Majic